Every 2 seconds, a girl in the developing world under the age of 18 is married. While early, forced and child marriage is a reality for both boys and girls, the practice disproportionately affects more girls – an estimated 15 million a year.
Child marriage violates girls’ human rights. It limits their education, and can jeopardize their health. Girls married at an early age are often forced to drop out of school and become mothers when still children themselves. According to Plan International’s report, A girl’s right to say no to marriage, adolescent pregnancy is one of the most dangerous consequences of child marriage, contributing to high rates of maternal, newborn and child mortality.
The negative impact of child marriage is far-reaching. For years, activists and international development organizations, like Plan International, have spoken out against it. Slowly, progress is being made, and the movement to end child marriage is growing stronger.
At the global level – nations unite
In November 2014, the UN General Assembly announced a resolution to end child marriage. Led by the governments of Canada and Zambia, this resolution demonstrates international dedication and support of efforts to change policy, behaviour and attitudes in communities around the world.
Ending child marriage will take time, but this resolution marks a major step in the right direction.
At the local level – girls unite
With support from Plan International, families in developing countries are learning about the harm of forcing their daughters into early marriages, communities are changing social and cultural norms, and girls like Mary and Sharina are becoming aware of their rights, while being empowered to take action!
Meet Sharina from Bangladesh
Married at 14, and pregnant shortly after, Sharina is determined to prevent the same from happening to her daughter. Fortunately, this is something her husband, Nazir, is also committed to.
In the case of child marriage, parents often choose when and who their daughter marries, so Sharina and Nazir’s decision to stop the cycle of forced marriage is an important behavioural change that’s key to ending this practice.
“Together, we agreed that we are never going to make the same mistakes our own parents did, to marry off our daughter prematurely. Never in the world!” said Sharina.
Meet Mary from Zimbabwe
Growing up in poverty in Zimbabwe, Mary, like many other young girls, was told that an early marriage would mean a better life for herself and for her family.
“My family was poor and I really thought my marriage would bring me a better life. It didn’t,” shared Mary.
With Plan International’s support, Mary has become a leader in her community, leading initiatives to financially empower young mothers. She is also actively campaigning alongside Plan International to raise awareness among girls, families and village chiefs about the issues surrounding child marriage.
“I want to show what life is like for child brides – the reality of what happens,” explained Mary. “Girls should get education, not husbands.”
Help stop child marriage
We know that one of the most effective ways to combat child marriage is to keep girls in school. It’s proven that girls who receive a higher education are less likely than girls who are not in school to be married before age 18.
When a girl is educated, she will marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn a higher income. Help put a stop to child marriage by sending a girl to school.